The Role of the Left Arm Part II

The Role of the Left Arm Part II

In The Role of the Left Arm Part 1, I wrote about Jimmy Ballard’s well-established idea of “connection” in the golf swing. I was recently reviewing an older tape of Jimmy’s teaching, and I got a better grasp of another important left arm concept – Jimmy calls it a “shorter” left arm, or “half a left arm.” This begs the question:

Should your left arm remain stiff throughout the swing?

This is a common mis-conception so lets take a look at one particular case, specifically, Calvin Peete, who led the tour in ball striking for nearly 10 years, and who literally could not straighten his left elbow. You can see Jim McLean describing this here:

Moveover, if you look at setup photos of Nicklaus, Hogan, Sneed and Jones, their arms are ‘soft’ at address, not stiff or straight, forming a triangle where the left hand is shorter, on what Jimmy calls the ‘inner rail’ of the swing, and the right hand is longer on the ‘outer rail.’ This ‘shorter’ left arm allows the shoulders to be more level, the posture to be more square and less dip of the right shoulder at address. Here is a video of Hogan demonstrating the soft arms on the Ed Sullivan show:

In the below pictures, I’ve demonstrated with a broom to make the club face’s position more evident at each position of the swing, how the triangle, formed by your arms and chest, stays intact. You can do this with a traditional grip, or split-grip drill (separate your hands by a few inches to better feel the “shorter” left and “longer” right hand on the grip).

Here are positions that I practice, and you can see what I’m talking about in this address photo:

Both arms are soft at address

At waist high going back, the triangle is intact with the left hand still on the ‘inner rail’ and the right hand on the ‘outer rail.’


From this position, as my shoulders finish turning back, or Jimmy would say ‘coiling’ by having my right arm simply fold, and move up to the throwing position in football or baseball.

The downswing is initiated from the ground up, ie, by my pushing off the inside of the right toe. With this initial move, my right hip leads the way and allows me to release my right arm and hand down the target line, and throw as hard as I want with my right hand. Another way to think about it is, the lower body starts the swing and the arms and shoulders follow.

You will notice that I have not included a picture at impact. I have omitted that section of the swing because of the advice I got from Jim Colbert who would constantly remind me to focus simply on swinging through to a correct balanced finish rather than thinking about a specific impact position, or rather to swing the club and ‘let the ball get in the way.’

At waist high past impact you can see where the left arm is still soft and short and the right arm is long and extended down the target line.

You will notice by the postion of the broom or ‘clubface’ during the swing, I have not had to manipulate my hands, or rotate my forearms at all to keep the club head square and in the center of the triangle for the entire swing. If you can do this with a soft and ‘shorter’ left arm, you’ll be amazed how easily you can square the club face and hit the straightest balls of your life.

From there, my left arm folds and I am in my fully-balanced position for the finish.

While there are pros who do keep a straight left arm it can be difficult to manage and there are plenty of big time names who go with a softer feel including Hal Sutton, Annika Sorenstam, Rocco Mediate, Curtis Strange, Jim Colbert, Peter Jacobsen and Jim Dent to name a few. Next time you are at the range try a softer left arm and let me know what you think.

Written by Wade Baynham
Single-digit handicap, who learned golf in his early 20′s from my former father-in-law, a long time PGA tour and Champions tour player. I enjoy studying the golf swing and occasionally give golf lessons.